Tinkering School

come make amazing things with us

Week 6, Day 3 & 4 - Where we falter and then find our stride.

Sean Murray

During staff meeting we were tired. Mazes wasn't getting the traction we had hoped. Kids were engaged, happy and safe, but hadn't wrapped their heads around what we were doing. Each wall was a struggle and everyone was pretty focused on the trees instead of the forest. We were making without meaning. For the first time this summer we felt we may lose the kids interest. We even bounced the idea around of scrapping the topic or changing it dramatically. Determined to live by our own philosophies, we banged out pens against paper and our ideas against other's ideas until a series of ideas lead us out of a feeling frustration and towards a fresh excitement. If we were going to fail, it at least had to be an interesting failure.

The children quickly had and continue to rapidly engaged in planning mazes. Putting them in 2D, on paper or on plywood. So what if we made the plan clearer? The next morning (today) we presented a series of options to kids and listen to their feedback, ending up with a grid system. On the floor, in chalk (drawing on the for being one of the benefits of a warehouse floor) we laid out a grid of large squares. Then some kids cut out butcher paper and put a grid on that. Using tape on the 2D grid as representations of the large 3D walls we had, a map was made and a plan was laid. We built new walls, strengthened old ones, dipped into our collection of 75 fresh sheets of cardboard from Uline, pursued a "pillow pit" as either an obstacle or an end goal, designed and redesigned the maze, and charged forward.

Our spirits are high and our maze is taking shape.

Early signs of the "pillow pit"

Frustrations mount with our materials

Many kids enjoy a break as Max, our Junior Counselor, reads a story

"Every child will be involved in building something bigger than themselves." A commitment we make at the start of summer.

2D mazes start popping up everywhere

We revisit one of out bigger walls to strengthen its base

The view from inside

A grid takes shape

A plan emerges

Yesterday we introduced a new set of "hardware" specifically for cardboard. They are called Makedo. At first one of the collaborators said, "That seems like cheating." We actually wrestled with this idea for a bit. With a commitment to "real tools" and "real supplies" it seemed we may be venturing a little off track towards toys and "tools for kids". However, hardware as we know it today are all fancy extra strong derivations on what carpenters used to do with wedges and pegs (check out this great video to see some seriously old fashioned building techniques). Modern hardware is the result of generations of thinking, tinkering and crafting to make the experience of creating faster, simpler and more about creativity than matching threads to nuts. It's about the best tools for the job, and these actually seem like the best tools yet created for working with cardboard. So, mindful to a potentially slippery slope, we made them available to the kids. Their detail oriented nature has thus far provided a rich experience.

We play with cardboard "hardware"

The maze grows in scale and complexity

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